Commentary

Klinsmann dumps Johnson: What's wrong with asking to be subbed for the good of the team?

By Mike Woitalla

First, a little background on Fabian Johnson.

Among the many German-raised players Jurgen Klinsmann brought into the U.S. national team, Johnson was especially intriguing. He was part of Germany’s 2009 U-21 European Championship title-winning squad, playing in a midfield alongside future World Cup winners Sami Khedira and Mesut Ozil on a team that also included 2014 world champions Manuel Neuer, Mats Hummels, Jerome Boateng and Benedikt Howedes.

His German national career hit the skids after his $3.5 million transfer from second division 1860 Munich to VfL Wolfsburg at age 21. Johnson didn’t start consistently after joining the defending Bundesliga champion.

“After the European Championship, it was quite a hard time for me,” he told me last June. “In two years, I played only 16 games, and that’s not enough for a player who wants to play in the national team.”

Especially a national team on the rise like Germany at the time. When Johnson rebounded impressively with Hoffenheim, he got a call from Klinsmann.

Johnson grew up in Munich speaking German to his mother and English to his father, Charles Johnson, a U.S. serviceman who played basketball for Bayern Munich.

Of the U.S. national team’s Germans during the Klinsmann era, only Jermaine Jones has worn the jersey more than Johnson’s 40 times. Klinsmann said he was the best right back at the 2014 World Cup.

And on Monday, Klinsmann sent Johnson packing. Klinsmann was upset that Johnson asked to be subbed the 111th minute of the USA’s game against Mexico with the score tied 2-2.

"I had a very severe word with Fabian Johnson, and I sent him home today," Klinsmann said. "He can rethink his approach about his team."

This is the exchange Klinsmann said took place along the sideline where he was standing and Johnson was operating: “He said he couldn't go anymore and I reacted to it and obviously and made the substitution. He just feared to possibly get an injury, but he was not injured in that moment. He got all stiffened up. It's a muscle issue. It's normal."

After nearly two hours on a backline under constant pressure -- Mexico had 63 percent of the possession -- Johnson called for a sub because he felt his muscles tightening up. What could possibly be the downside of bringing in fresh legs at this stage of the game? After all, Johnson looked to be a liability in overtime, having trailed badly on the play that led to Oribe Peralta's goal that had momentarily put Mexico ahead 2-1.

Klinsmann said he wanted to save a sub in case of penalty kicks to replace Brad Guzan with Nick Rimando.

Guzan is actually darn good at saving penalty kicks. Back in 2009, he famously saved three shootout attempts and a regulation PK in an Aston Villa FA Cup victory.

So as the USA tries to bounce back from the major loss on Saturday -- a 3-2 defeat without PKs -- the starting goalkeeper knows that his coach doesn’t trust him in a shootout and the team’s best outside back has been humiliated by the coach's implication that he’s a quitter.

Again, Klinsmann’s account is Johnson “said he couldn't go anymore.”

Why in the world would Johnson say that if it wasn’t how he really felt?

It sounds like a player who’s worried he's a liability and is asking to be subbed for the good of the team.

30 comments about "Klinsmann dumps Johnson: What's wrong with asking to be subbed for the good of the team?".
  1. David Mont, October 13, 2015 at 7:50 a.m.

    If only Klinsmann asked to be subbed for the good of US soccer!

  2. Richard T. Lynch, October 13, 2015 at 8:31 a.m.

    Landon has to be smiling over his coffee this morning.

  3. Rich V, October 13, 2015 at 9:17 a.m.

    That's insane. Would he rather Johnson got hurt before subbing him off?

  4. BJ Genovese, October 13, 2015 at 9:47 a.m.

    wow... So JK can be rather shrewd when the camera is not pointing at him. He must be quite the enigma to the players.

  5. Santiago 1314, October 13, 2015 at 9:55 a.m.

    Drip, Drip,, Drip,,, The water Torture Continues... Won't be long now...Lost the Game; Lost the Locker Room; After tonight, Will Hopefully "LOST" His Job...Does anyone see Now; What I have been Saying about Needing a USA Coach that was a Former USA National Team Player**(WITH PROFESSIONAL TEAM, TROPHY WINNING EXPERIENCE)**...How can a GERMAN PASSPORT *Non-American* Tell a person, who AT LEAST WENT TO THE PROCESS OF GETTING A USA PASSPORT...That HE(Johnson) needs to BLEED MORE(Tear Muscles) for The USA Team.???

  6. Greg Giese, October 13, 2015 at 10:05 a.m.

    Kinda like Landicakes wanting to skip practice after games or Abby not wanting to play in a league so she could be ready for the World Cup. These coaches demand so much of American players... Geez.

  7. Raymond Weigand replied, October 13, 2015 at 11:59 a.m.

    Greg, bravo! It is so important to have players who want to improve / who want to get to the next level / at least as much as their coach. Of course, we would prefer to have players who want it more. Funny how the Cristiano stories about his workouts as a young player at MU do not inspire more players ... the extra time spent on quickness / agility / having comfort and confidence when controlling the ball. One can also see the change in Leo over his career when folks started giving kudos to Christiano - Leo put in more time and effort to quicken his step ... to be more agile. Fun to watch video of his progress. Not so fun to watch our USA players when looking for improvements ... except maybe Yedlin and Gyasi ... two exceptional kids who have shown remarkable improvements over the last 15 months. It is obvious that they are investing the time and effort - and hopefully that attitude can be contagious.

  8. Santiago 1314 replied, October 13, 2015 at 12:30 p.m.

    Humm.!?!?!?...To say that Landon and Abby didn't put in the Work and Didn't know what is Best fir their Mind and Body, Is Asinine...They both Did Great Service for the Soccer in this Country and Took a POUNDING For it...Abby showed Great Forethought in How Much her Body Could Take, so she Could "BE THERE"...Landon would have been that Leadership and Spark that USA Needed to Get Past Belgium...Even if we did get Out Played,...Landon would Not have Missed the "Sitter on the 6" That WondoLoserski did...Shame on you all.!!!

  9. Bob Ashpole replied, October 13, 2015 at 5:24 p.m.

    Why do I get the impression you guys have never played 120 minutes in a competition? Johnson is a professional soccer player, a fullback and midfielder, which is as distant from wimp as you can possibly get. There was only one prima donna in that story.

  10. Kent James replied, October 14, 2015 at 9:34 a.m.

    Bob and Santiago are right on this one...

  11. cisco martinez, October 13, 2015 at 10:37 a.m.

    A good coach should want to know how his players are doing; if he's struggling, getting tired, can't go anymore, its not like he just played 90 plus minutes.

  12. Doug Lister, October 13, 2015 at 10:51 a.m.

    What kind of coach outs his players publicly? His team lost so he takes it out on them? Maybe he should look within

  13. David Mont replied, October 13, 2015 at 11:42 a.m.

    "What kind of coach outs his players publicly?" -- isn't that how Klinsmann has been treating his players all these years?

  14. cony konstin, October 13, 2015 at 11:08 a.m.

    It is time for radical change. U.S. Soccer needs a revolution. We need new leadership. We need a new vision. We need a 21st century master plan. We need to create a NEW SPARTA!!!!The people who are in charge of US SOCCER need to move on. It is time for a clensing and a fresh new start. We need to change from a coaching enviroment to a playing enviroment. We need 600,000 Futsal courts in our inner cities and suburbs so our kids can play for free, 24/7/365, no adult interference, and the opportunity to compete everyday to see who will be king of the the court. No more gimmicks. No more $400 cleats. No more coaching DVDs. No more smoke n mirrors. Set our kids free. Give our kids a place that is theirs. Give our kids a sandlot enviroment and they will develop into passionate, natural, magical 21st century warriors that will eventually conquer the soccer world. Futsal will be our version of streetball. Futsal will revolutionize US soccer but first we must clean house!!!!!

  15. Amos Annan replied, October 14, 2015 at 1:23 p.m.

    never happen

  16. Kent James, October 13, 2015 at 11:31 a.m.

    I guess JK would have preferred that he soldier on, like Jones did. Jones was visibly exhausted, and his tackle from behind (because he was too tired to get goalside before attempting to tackle) led to free kick the resulted in Mexico's winning goal. I respect Jones' effort, but it hurt us in the big picture (and since Jones obviously did not tell JK he was ailing, and JK prefers it that way, it's on JK to recognize that on his own). Johnson has been one of the US's most consistent performers in a position where we struggle to find consistency. For JK to dismiss him because he was honest about his limitations (as Donovan was) will only encourage other players to be dishonest as well. That certainly won't help the team perform at its best.

  17. Bob Ashpole replied, October 13, 2015 at 5:39 p.m.

    Jones told the whole world before the match that he was not 100% yet.

  18. Kent James replied, October 14, 2015 at 9:34 a.m.

    Bob, what you're referring to is his recovery from injury (and the reason Jones should not have even played). I meant that unlike Johnson, who told JK during the game he could not continue, Jones kept silent (during the game), even though it was obvious his fitness had deteriorated alarmingly during the game.

  19. Raymond Weigand, October 13, 2015 at 11:41 a.m.

    Cony, you are getting your wish ... thousands or futsal games throughout - transitioning in 2016 ... mandatory (?) in 2017 ... USSF new field size regulations for U10 and younger have the kids playing futsal.

  20. John Soares, October 13, 2015 at 12:39 p.m.

    JK at his worse... OK, his normal. How can you criticize a player, especially publicly, for being honest enough to say "coach, if I stay in I'm hurting the team". Only JK.

  21. Jim Romanski, October 13, 2015 at 4:19 p.m.

    Time to turn the job over to Coach Tab Ramos. He did well with the younger team and the players respond to him.

    I think JK did some good stuff but that's very bad class to give a player a hard time who thinks he should come out after 111 minutes. Maybe he just wants to distract everyone away from the loss.

  22. Santiago 1314 replied, October 13, 2015 at 4:44 p.m.

    I would FIRE JK at Halftime Tonight, then put Tab in Charge for the November Qualifiers...On a Interim Basis (I don't think he is Ready for Full Time)...Then Hire Peter Vermes after MLS season is over..

  23. Tim Brown, October 13, 2015 at 7:44 p.m.

    Fabian Johnson deserves better. JK oould let him go without it being a public spectacle. Mexico is a very good team. No shame in losing to them. Jermaine Jones foul was more of a reason to cut somebody in my opinion. We were so close to penalties. Jones panicked and we lost the game. JK has torn OUR program and team apart. Wake up USA Soccer Clowns!

  24. Nancy Jones, October 14, 2015 at 9:03 a.m.

    Thank you Fabian Johnson for all the hours and the effort you have put in for the national team! Thanks to you JK for showing your backside one more time!!! Maybe someone, someday soon will say enough JK, you are out of here!!!!! There is no way players can respect him and his false smile. You may not need to like him, but you MUST respect a coach - however respect is earned and he has not.......

  25. Daniel Clifton, October 14, 2015 at 12:58 p.m.

    Apparently Jurgen expected Fabian to play until he pulled a muscle. This is the kind of coach we have for the national team.

  26. Amos Annan, October 14, 2015 at 1:22 p.m.

    I was thinking he should have subbed him much earlier. And he needed Wondoloski at forward.

  27. Ginger Peeler, October 14, 2015 at 7:05 p.m.

    Even worse...after his Johnson's club verified that he was injured, JK didn't believe it, saying to the press to wait to see if Johnson plays on Saturday. What does that say to the team about their coach? He doesn't trust them or believe them!!! He has played so many of them out of their normal positions and then refused to acknowledge that it may have resulted in confusion on the field.

  28. Bob Ashpole replied, October 15, 2015 at 12:32 a.m.

    What club is going to want to release their players to a coach who disregards the players welfare and demands that they play injured? Clubs have an investment to protect. It is going to be tougher to get clubs to release players for the Olympic qualification match.

  29. Ginger Peeler, October 14, 2015 at 7:14 p.m.

    What a mess. Then he blames yesterday's loss on the team's being so upset by the loss to Mexico? Excuse me? At what point does he own up and admit that he screwed up? I'm used to coaches taking responsibility for their team's failures. All of a sudden, he's keen to find the next group of players for the USMNT. I thought that's what he was supposed to be doing all along! Wasn't Hugo Perez out there recruiting talent? And coaching the U-15s? Then he lost the coaching position and seems to have been disappeared.

  30. Joe Linzner, October 17, 2015 at 8:15 p.m.

    So playing 90 minutes today in a Borussia Moenchengladbach really shows the man left to help the USMNT.... You guys are incredibly naive.....

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